The Changing Face of Retail

At the click of a button, we can have anything we want, from anywhere in the world and it is this phenomenon that has changed the value of the Town Centre.
For Town Centres to survive, they need to understand the data collected from the online shopping experiences, to really get to know the customer and what interests them. Not everyone who surfs the net, buys – why is that?  What are they looking for?  Behavioural buying patterns are key to developing the right sale, inventory and product strategies to improve business models and media messaging to draw the customer in.
How do Brands do this? By getting to know their customer, their habits and spending power through data analysis. Selling to the customer has to become more specific and personalised and once you “know” your customer, you can target the marketing to suit their wants and needs before they realise, they even want or need it, through various media channels. Becoming more customer focused rather than product focused connects you to the customer building the long-term relationships and brand loyalty.
Powerful use of social media data can assist in determining the trends and shifts in customer interests and spending, keeping you ahead of the competition but for Town Centres, will that bring customers through the doors? With the ease and convenience of online shopping how do you move the customer from the “sofa?”  Town Centres need to create whole new experiences for the customer, both visual and sensory, to make them the “Place to Be.”  Some retailers are already recognising this providing such services as personal concierge services, where the customer books an appointment and is greeted in a professional and relaxed manner. With coffee and tea provided, they are measured, their style and choices assessed, and products chosen specifically for them. They then have time to try on, accessorise and purchase in privacy and comfort.  Some shopping malls are providing a different experience, incorporating new and artistic architecture that naturally invites the customer to take selfies for Instagram. For example, the “Wings” in Liverpool created by local artist Paul Curtis. They allow anyone who stands in front of them, to transform themselves into a Liver Bird and of course have a photo taken. Thousands of photos have been taken in front of the Wings since 2017 and not many pass it without stopping.
Town Centres have to ask themselves “why are we here?”  They need to be run by commercially experienced boards who understand the customer and retail experience and who are open to innovative and joined up approaches, aligning themselves with local artists, hospitality and the entertainment industries to change the face of their retail offer. If they don’t, they will be left behind and will be lost forever.
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